Wisc. Student Faked Abduction; Woman Wanted Just to Be Alone
After nearly a week of round-the-clock searches through muck and
dense woods by hundreds of police and friends of Audrey Seiler,
police concluded Friday that the University of Wisconsin student had
Seiler, 20, admitted to police that she just wanted to "be alone" and may face criminal charges, said Noble Wray, Madison's acting police chief. Police have been in contact with prosecutors, he said.
After the Rockford, Minn., native was found Wednesday afternoon in a marsh about 2 miles from her off-campus apartment, she gave a detailed description of a man who allegedly abducted her. That sent police searching the area with guns drawn before inconsistencies in Seiler's story led them to halt their operations on Friday, Wray said during a news conference that aired live on CNN and other news stations.
"We do not believe there is a suspect at large, period," Wray continued.
Seiler had said initially that she was abducted at her apartment. But when police pressed her, she changed her story and said she had been abducted in another part of the city at knifepoint, Wray told the cameras.
Police also said they have no way of knowing if an account Seiler gave in February about being assaulted and dragged unconscious for about a block was true or not. But they refused to talk about her mental state or speculate about why she made up the abduction.
"Audrey stated that she just wanted to be alone," said Wray.
More than a hundred residents from Seiler's hometown traveled nearly five hours to join Madison police in the search after Seiler was reported missing. Rockford High School Principal Roman Pierskalla said by phone the town is still rallying around the family even if it turns out Seiler was duping everyone.
"We are going to want to know why it was done. There must be some type of reason," Pierskalla said. "There must be something wrong with her because it's so out of character for her."
A grainy video captured Seiler leaving her off-campus apartment about 2:30 a.m. March 27. She was seen leaving without a coat, her apartment door still open, and she did not take her car.
Hundreds of officers used dogs, helicopters and boats to search for Seiler. While they were searching, witnesses in different areas of the city spotted the college sophomore walking around, police said.
"Two people saw her in different areas of the city walking freely," said Wray.
She also popped up on store videotape buying a knife, rope and duct tape. The items, which she claimed the man used, were found near her in the marsh, police said.
Police also believe she used her computer to search for local parklands to hide in and to scan extended weather forecasts. Someone continued to use the computer in her apartment after her disappearance, Wray said.
Seiler was found without life-threatening injuries on Wednesday. A doctor who treated her said she was cold, dehydrated and had muscle aches--allegedly from being confined.
While police are not speculating about her motive, at least one expert said that Seiler may have been acting out to mark her place in the large college campus. Seiler came from a town of 3,500 where she graduated third in her class, was an honor society president and captain of the volleyball and basketball teams.
Alex Boese, whose book "The Museum of Hoaxes" explains why people try to dupe others, said that along with seeking attention, Seiler might have been seeking to exert a sense of power.
"In a case like this, there's also an element of trying to get some kind of illusion of control or power over other people," he said. "Maybe doing something like this is a way to manipulate other people and see how she can pull their strings."
Seiler's friends continue to support the family and would like to see her get help rather than face criminal charges.
"It warrants even more support to stand behind that family," said Kurt Pennuto, who has known the family for 15 years and helped in the search.
"I'm still elated that Audrey is safe and alive and with her family."